The Importance of Collecting Data on Students for Social Emotional Learning

Educator Impact

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Social emotional learning (SEL) is a crucial component of any educational program. According to CASEL, an organization that has studied SEL outcomes for over twenty years, SEL improves students’ academic and behavioral outcomes and betters their economic mobility and outcomes. The benefits of SEL are clear. What may be more ambiguous, however, is how to measure this type of learning. Like for any other learning outcome, school leaders need to collect SEL data to determine if students are reaching benchmarks. Here, we discuss why it’s so important to focus on collecting student SEL data.

Why Do I Need to Collect SEL Data?

Administrators need to collect student data at three levels: district, school, and individual.

According to Panorama Education, “[L]ooking at SEL data at the individual student level is just as important [as at the school and district level]. Student-level SEL data can help you fill in the gaps and understand the full story of why a student is struggling so you can implement smarter Tier 2 and 3 interventions beyond the universal supports already in place.”

Educators should have benchmarks in place for what successful acquisition of a competency looks like and know why particular students are not as successful.

Teachers and staff can then determine why a student may be struggling and plan accordingly.

Using SEL Data to Support the Continuous Improvement Cycle

The same is true on a school-wide basis. Where are students consistently achieving, and what competencies are more difficult for them to acquire? Administrators and teachers can alter the curriculum according to what students need more help with.

This demonstrates the continuous improvement cycle in the SEL curriculum.

Kickboard notes, “Such a cycle ensures that investments of time and resources in SEL curricula, practices, and programs are addressing student needs and improving student outcomes.”

In summary, the continuous improvement cycle is as follows:

  • Collect data regularly throughout the year, regardless of external factors or season.
  • Analyze the data to notice patterns of success and failure.
  • Plan modifications to the SEL curriculum based on these findings.
  • Devise interventions and modify curricula.
  • Continue this cycle at regular intervals.

Here are a few examples of methods for collecting SEL data from students:

  • Recording of student behavior
  • Measurements of student performance on tasks
  • Student and teacher surveys
  • Measurements of absenteeism, suspensions, and discipline referrals
  • Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) and DESSA SEL Inventory

The essential factor in deciding on what data to collect and how to collect it is determining what is most important in your school. As Kickboard points out, “The power of data lies in analysis, reflection, and utilization. Schools can study data on multiple dimensions to answer questions that are important to students’ needs and schoolwide culture.”

Other factors to keep in mind when collecting SEL student data include the following:

  • Are you focusing on a strengths-based approach?
  • Do you have a developmental lens that includes students at different age levels and competencies?
  • Have you reviewed data collection methods used by other districts?
  • Have you reviewed the other data collection tools already in common practice?
  • Do you focus on the environment of your school and promoting equity among students?

The Significance of Real-Time Insights on Student Wellbeing

A critical element of data collection is regular and recurrent check-ins about student wellbeing. Educator Impact’s Pulse simplifies the collection of this information. Each week, the app will send out a 60-second check-in to students. They will be asked simple questions with pre-written answers, asking them to consider how they’re feeling about their classes and mental health.

Once the emotional tenor of the campus is tracked, SEL leaders can then use this information to plan lessons and connect with students on issues that are most pressing to them. Such real-time insights can offer educators and leaders a way to meaningfully improve during SEL program implementation.

Using Collected Data for Continuous Improvement

One of the key factors of any SEL data collection practice is using this information for continuous improvement. CASEL advises creating a multi-year SEL data collection and assessment plan that incorporates the following:

  • Data is used to improve the SEL program and practice.
  • Data is shared with stakeholders regularly.
  • Data collected from students about their social and emotional skills is given to teachers.
  • Teachers have regular meetings to discuss the SEL program and any problems.
  • SEL strategies are implemented at all levels of the school.

Creating a Strong, Agile SEL Program That Can Adjust to Student Needs

Many schools are still using behavioral surveys that focus on problem behavior, rather than on changes in students overall and individually. With more regular data collection, schools can alter their SEL curricula at any point during the year. ei Pulse’s data is automatically collected and immediately actionable, so curriculum improvement can stay more consistent.

Here at Educator Impact, we help school leaders keep a pulse on their students’ wellbeing and empower them with tools that leverage real-time student insights to inform SEL strategies, identify which students need further support, and enable them to continually improve their SEL initiatives.

To see how we can help you do the same for your school community, feel free to reach out to our SEL and wellbeing experts today!